Gone fishin’ is a euphemism from the last generation… It means when someone has checked out, Elvis has left the building, complaints department closed, etc. Don’t bother knocking… the doctor is out.
It reminds me of that parable Jesus told about how to get help. Essentially he said, don’t give up. The parable tells of the judge, and the woman who seeks justice for her complaint keeps pounding on his door, refusing to leave without being heard.
There are plenty of times in life where you will find God silent, and no answers pending. The question is, what to do next. Most people end up back in their usual patterns. When you can’t think of anything else, sometimes retreading the basics is the way to go.
And so it is that after the crucifixion of Jesus, and even after his miraculous appearances, the disciples really didn’t have any answers. They were still hanging on to a bit of he said/she said, and wondering what to do with the last transformative three-and-a-half years spent with Jesus. They were without a master and without a mission. Jesus had even told them not to operate in their own strength and wisdom. His words: “without me, you can do nothing”.
And so… they went fishing. They did what they were used to doing, and after all, they had to eat. So they went fishing, as a group, all night in the boat with no catch.
The account in found in the book of John chapter 21. What follows is that Jesus appears on the shore as a mysterious stranger. The story further unfolds as the re-instatement of Peter following his denial of Jesus. Peter was likely feeling unworthy, and nursing a bit of well-trod self loathing. Jesus gave him a chance to take it all back and left him with a vision and a purpose - “feed my sheep”.
The thing that sticks with me in this story, is that the disciples were merely going about their business in that stupid and blind way we often do when we proceed through the basics of a day and go through the usual motions without much thinking at all. We may be on some level desperate for a bit of revelation, but don’t have the time, and there is just too much life unfolding every minute.
Out of this, Jesus appears. He more than meets the apostles half way, he beckons them, forgives them, warms them and feeds them. All while they had “gone fishing”. They didn’t have to do anything but park their boats.
I feel like Peter who didn’t wait around for the ship to reach shore. He jumped in the water and swam ahead. He got what you might call a bit of re-invigoration of purpose. He could not know it was coming, but he felt it.
It was after all Jesus, the one who comes to us when we are busy and distracted, who beckons, who feeds us, who reinstates as as his own, all while we are “gone fishing”. If that’s not encouraging, I don’t know what is.